Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The tale of 2 trees

We have 2 sweet-gum trees in the yard, which I believe to be called Liquid Amber. One is on the hill, always leafs out later and turns red sooner than the one that is on the flat part of the yard. They are just two reasons I have to be thankful I live here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

something to think about

I am an armchair environmentalist. My idea of conserving fuel is to run errands on the way home, and I conserve gray water by hauling it out in bucketfuls and dumping it on my plants. At the grocery store, I pay more attention to what's in it than where it came from. Now that I'm a Professional Foodie of a sort, I have started paying attention to where things do come from. No, I didn't ask the waiter where the fish came from last week, but it crossed my mind to do so.

And so I have finally read Barbara Kingsolver's book. It's about her year-long experiment about buying locally. I like her fiction; this is not like her other books. She unabashedly stands on her soap-box in-between short essays about her far. Did you know, each food item in a typical U.S. meal traveled 1500 miles to the table? That energy calories to produce and transport food far outweigh the energy calories we get from the food?
Just like with human pathogens and antibiotics, plant pathogens and weeds are growing more resistant to pesticides and herbicides. Crop losses were 7% in 1948 when 50 million pounds of pesticides were applied. In 2000, losses were 13% when 2 BILLION pounds of pesticides were used. No wonder half of our new food team works exclusively on pesticide analysis!

I have noticed at our store here there are signs in the produce area that say which items are purchased locally. I'm going to start paying more attention to them. I herein promise to make some better choices than asparagus in November. Really.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

compliments of the American Farm Bureau

looks like we have just a little something extra to be thankful for.

Friday, November 13, 2009

second week on the job

Like many new jobs, this one has been hurry-up-and-wait. I finally got into the lab with a collection of folks from 3 other groups doing something I won't be doing, but the workflow is close enough it is no-nevermind. It seems to me that an awful lot of molecular biology is pretty much the same - use pipettes to take teensy amounts of liquid out of an assortment of vials, each at its own time and temperature, with various incubations as prescribed. Later, you get a number, which means something-or-other. There, now that doesn't sound so hard, does it? But I did enjoy the wrap-up session, sitting around tables with other scientists and each of us brainstorming about how to improve what we did, as the set-up in its current configuration is prone to leaks. It's been too long since I have gotten to participate in an intellectual exercise of this sort, and I have missed it. Then I got to sit in a meeting all day and listen to development folks drone on and ON about new software, but it had the advantage that I met some folks on my new team and got a free lunch.

Friday, November 6, 2009

fallout from the new job

Sos I'm spending a few days reading food industry websites and gathering background for the new job while I'm waiting for my lab stuff to get set up and people to tell me what to do. Several weeks ago I ran into the Monterey Bay Aquarium's guide to Seafood Watch Seafood Recommendations, and saw that line-caught Alaskan Salmon was on the recommended list, but that farmed salmon was on the avoid list. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_recommendations.aspx
This surprised me as I had sort of assumed that farming was a good thing. Well, it is, for catfish and shellfish. But not for salmon. Today I found a short video clip that explains why. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eggrGn0V0fg

I promise not to turn this into a soapbox. But sometimes, there are just some things you need to know to make the right choices. And now you know, too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I ran out of stamps, so I walked down the hill to the post office. I was staring at the parking lot as I walked away, and as soon as I reached the sidewalk, there appeared dark splotches, a little more than an inch in diameter. In just a few squares of pavement, soon there were at least a half dozen per square. Past the next building, I reached the corner of the high school yard. The density of the black patches increased. Chewing gum! After I crossed the second crosswalk, they almost completely disappeared. None at all on the sidewalks on my street. So the kids must chew gum on the way to school, and throw it out as they arrive. Yuck! I'm going to walk on the other side of the street next time.